Who can forgive sins but God alone?
In this passage, the Pharisees declare that only God can forgive sins. Jesus forgives sins and so Trinitarians claim he must therefore be God in agreement with the Pharisees.
The Problem with the Claim
Trinitarians Endorse the Error of the Pharisees
The very point of the narrative is that Jesus had proved the Pharisees were wrong. The passage tells us that Jesus proved the Pharisees were wrong and God had given authority to forgive sins to a man named Jesus. By endorsing the error of the Pharisees, Trinitarians are betraying their own blindness.
Analysis of the Facts
The Point of the Narrative
Let's note what Jesus says in the same account written by the hand of Matthew:
"But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, take up your bed and go home" (Matthew 9:6).
Carefully regard what Jesus said here. The Pharisees charge that only God can forgive sins. But Jesus tells them that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth and he is healing the paralytic to prove to these Pharisees with this sign that he has been given this authority. He asks, "Which is easier?" Is it easier to do a miracle or forgive a man's sins? We are to obviously conclude it is easier to forgive this man his sins. So Jesus does the more difficult thing, a miracle, to prove that he has the authority to do the easier thing, forgive sins. By doing this miracle, he shows God had given him the authority to do such a miracle and if he had this greater authority it shows he also had the authority to forgive sins. Note also how we are told in Scripture that it was God the Father abiding in Jesus who did the works (Jn 14:10; Acts 2:22). A man was given this authority and Jesus is demonstrating to the Pharisees that they were completely incorrect to insist that only God can forgive sins. Trinitarians should take note.
Now let us carefully note what Matthew goes on to say:
"When the crowds saw it, they were awestruck, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:8).
And there we have the truth of the matter. God had given the authority to forgive sins to Jesus.
The crowds were quite amazed by the fact that God had given such authority to men to forgive sins. Jesus had proven the Pharisees were completely wrong. Notice how we are told that God gave this authority to men, clearly showing us that Jesus as a man was given this authority by his God. So, what more do we need to say here? The Trinitarian abuse of Mark 2:7 to promote their doctrine is an absolutely apalling example of their blindness and their errors. The passage demonstrates the Pharisaical notion that only God could forgive sins was wrong and Matthew writes that the crowds were amazed because God had given such authority to forgive sins to men. We should also take note here that God is distinguished from the man Jesus in this passage.
Perhaps, one might like to invent a little story here that the crowds didn't realize Jesus was God yet. But that wouldn't make any difference at all. Matthew wrote this passage under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he said that God had indeed given such authority to men, and the man who had been given this authority, happened to be Jesus the Nazarene.
And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed, and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son. Your sins are forgiven." And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming. [Who can forgive sins but God alone?]" But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, "Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, "Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins," he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, take up your bed and go home." And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were in awe, and they glorified God who had given such authority to MEN." (Matthew 9:2-8; Mk 2:7).
Rather than supporting the Trinitarian claim, the passage intentionally refutes their claim. It militates heavily against Trinitarianism because it illustrates that God gave authority to men in the giving of this authority to the man Jesus. It not only distinguishes God from the man Jesus but it also shows us that if Jesus was God, why would he need to be given this authority from God? But here we see God had given Jesus the Nazarene that authority.
The Trinitarian apologetic is once again is shown to be extremely disingenuous. The passages themselves tell us that the reason Jesus was forgiving this man's sins was that he as a man who was given authority to do so by God, not because he was "God," and so the Trinitarian finds himself not serving the teaching of Jesus but falling down flat on the side of the Pharisees.
Jesus gives this same authority to his apostles. After he rose from the dead, he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and told them that if they forgave the sins of any they were forgiven and if they retained the sins of any they were retained (John 20:22-23). Before Jesus said this he said, "As the Father sent me, I also send you" and breathed the Spirit into them. When Jesus was baptized at the Jordan, he was anointed in the Spirit and given this authority in the same way as he gave it to the Apostles. This is why they baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. As servants of their Lord, they had been given authority to do these things in the name of Jesus by the Spirit he gave them just as Jesus did these things in the name of his God and Father. As he himself said on this occasion, "Just as the Father sent me, I now send you."
The teaching in this gospel is that God had given authority to forgive sins to men. To prove he had been given this authority by God, he asked the Pharisees which was greater, to forgive sins, or to heal a crippled man. It was obviously easier to forgive sins. By showing he had the authority to do something greater than forgive sins, a healing miracle, Jesus proved he had been given the authority to do the lesser thing: forgive sins. And so Jesus healed a paralyzed man to prove he was given the authority to forgive sins. We are plainly told by Peter that God had anointed him with such authority (Acts 2:22; 10:38; cf. Luke 4:18). Who can forgive sins but God alone? As the narrative says, God had given such authority to men. The man Jesus was given that authority by God at the Jordan when his God anointed him in the Spirit to act in His name.
The very point of this narrative is to demonstrate that God had given authority to a man, the man Jesus, to forgive sins. And Jesus demonstrates to the Pharisees that he had been given this authority by doing the greater miracle, healing the paralytic. By doing the greater sign, he proved he also had the authority to do the lesser sign, forgive sins. The point of this account is that God had given the authority to forgive sins to men. And so having insisted that only God could forgive sins, Jesus had proven the Pharisees were blindly wrong. And so are Trinitarians who stand with them.
"They glorified God, who had given such authority to men."
Last Revision/Update: February 15, 2016